Who is Trey Murphy III? The New Orleans Pelicans' young star carrying the team on his back in absence of Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram

Dallas Mavericks v New Orleans Pelicans
New Orleans Pelicans forward Trey Murphy III

New Orleans Pelicans second-year forward Trey Murphy III has gotten off to a very impressive start for his team this season.

Through four games, Murphy is currently averaging 15.5 points, 6.5 rebounds, 1.0 assist, 1.0 steal and 3.3 3-pointers per game. He also has a ridiculous shooting split of 62.9/68.4/83.3.

Murphy stepped up big-time in the Pelicans’ 113-111 win over the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday night. New Orleans was without three starters, including both its All-Stars, with Brandon Ingram, Zion Williamson and Herb Jones all sidelined due to injuries.

However, the team persevered through a superb team effort. Eight of the nine Pelicans players who played in the game scored in double figures. Out of those nine players, Murphy stood out, finishing with 22 points, five rebounds and four 3-pointers on a perfect 8-for-8 (100%) shooting.

This kind of production is exactly what the New Orleans Pelicans were looking for when they drafted Murphy 17th in the 2021 NBA draft. As a 6'9" shooter with a seven-foot wingspan, he looked like an NBA-ready wing prospect coming out of college.

In his final year of college for the Virginia Cavaliers in the 2020-2021 season, Murphy also displayed very high shooting efficiency. He finished the season averaging 11.3 points, 3.4 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 0.8 steals and 2.1 3-pointers per game. He did this on a 50.3/43.3/92.7 shooting split over 25 games.

Murphy’s impressive shooting for his size earned him draft comparisons to prominent NBA role players such as Robert Covington and James Jones. However, his lack of versatility had many draft analysts doubting whether he would ever become anything more than a 3-point specialist in the NBA.

Some of those concerns seemed justified as Murphy struggled over his rookie season with the New Orleans Pelicans. He averaged just 5.4 points and 2.4 rebounds on 39.4% shooting in just 13.9 minutes per game.

However, he still had strong stints in the NBA Summer League and the NBA G League, where the franchise saw flashes of his potential.

Trey Murphy III has looked like far more than just a 3-point specialist this season. He’s shown the ability to take the ball off the dribble and score inside. He’s also been rebounding at a strong rate and playing solid defense.

Overall, Murphy now looks like he has a chance to completely shatter his projected NBA ceiling.

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Can the New Orleans Pelicans keep up their hot start?

New Orleans Pelicans guard CJ McCollum
New Orleans Pelicans guard CJ McCollum

The New Orleans Pelicans have gotten off to a blazing 3-1 start to the season. Their only loss was in overtime against the Utah Jazz in a game where they lost Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson midway through.

So far the Pelicans have looked like the team with one of the most complete rosters in the NBA. They have two young two-way stars in Ingram and Williamson as well as proven veterans in guard CJ McCollum and center Jonas Valanciunas. New Orleans also has an elite young defender in Herb Jones.

Trey Murphy III’s emergence as a sixth man just makes the team all the more lethal. This is not to mention their other quality depth pieces like pesky defensive guard Jose Alvarado and veteran point forward Larry Nance Jr.

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At this point, the New Orleans Pelicans’ biggest concern should just be staying healthy. Zion Williamson’s health in particular is the biggest concern, as he only played in 85 games over his first three seasons.

If the Pelicans can get back to full strength soon and stay healthy, they could mount a serious challenge to finish as a top-five seed in the Western Conference.

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Edited by Anantaajith Raghuraman